Saturday, December 22, 2007

Singur sharecropper commits suicide

The Statesman

Kolkata, Dec. 17.

Acute financial crunch drove a 50-year-old non-recorded sharecropper, Shankar Patra, to suicide this afternoon. He is the fifth farmer of Singur to have committed suicide following land acquisition there. Patra took his life at a cowshed adjacent to his house near Khaserveri in Singur.

His widow, Mrs Sandhya Patra, who found her husband hanging from the ceiling of the cowshed, said he had been suffering from depression since the state government had acquired land last year for the proposed Tata Motors car factory in Singur. Patra was later declared dead at Singur block hospital. The body has been sent for an autopsy, police said. Mrs Patra alleged that her husband hadn’t received compensation from the government despite its promise that non-recorded sharecroppers would be compensated.

Police said that Patra had been suffering from acute Tuberculosis and his death had nothing to do with land acquisition. “After being displaced from our land, my husband opened a tea stall. We were plunged into acute financial crisis by two thefts in a row at the tea stall.”

Police did nothing to trace the money stolen from the shop, Mrs Patra alleged. She added that her husband had opposed land acquisition and took part in rallies organised by the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC). Mr Dudhkumar Dhara, a SKJRC member, blamed Patra’s depression on police’s inability to recover stolen money.

Dismissing the suggestion, Mr Priyabrata Baxi, officer-in-charge of Singur police station said: “Patra was suffering from Tuberculosis. Financial distress drove him to suicide.”

Mr Prasenjit Chakraborty, block development officer, Singur, said: “A list of 397 non-recorded sharecroppers has been prepared. They will be compensated. Patra’s name is not on the list. It implies that he hadn’t registered for compensation. The process of compensating non-recorded sharecroppers is yet to start.”

The suicide is believed to add fuel to Singur fire as it comes a day before Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee’s Singur visit.

Meanwhile, TV celebrity Mr Koushik Sen and litterateur, Tarun Sanyal, visited Singur today and spoke to farmers spearheading the movement to reoccupy land taken away for the car factory.

Later, they addressed a rally at Beraberi and condemned the manner in which the state government had acquired land in Singur.